Street vendors operating in the CBD say they are fed up with being harassed by the Msunduzi Municipality’s security guards. The vendors said while they were not in possession of operating permits, they did not deserve to be treated like “criminals”. The vendors claimed they were forced by some security guards to pay bribes of up to R50, or risk having their goods confiscated. “They come here every day and they want R20s and R50s. If you haven’t got money, they confiscate all your goods and you’ll never recover them again,” said one seller on Church Street.He added that the guards sometimes pay them a visit three times a day. Another seller, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, said she once witnessed a security official from the municipality hit a vendor during the guards’ rounds at another spot outside the New Rank. “Last year, one guard threw an empty bucket at a woman who was selling here. She was struck on the forehead and began bleeding. I believe the guard did that because she had sold all her goods out of the same bucket.” The fruit seller, who asked for anonymity too, who had some boxes of fruit confiscated last week, said this happens regularly and the reason given is that he should stop selling his goods on the streets. He said he has never applied for a permit to operate as a street vendor because he is unaware of where to go and the process he must follow.The fruit seller said he used to be stationed on Church Street but was instructed to no longer operate from there either. “They [municipality] do not want us to sell anywhere in town,” he said. Another street vendor who asked for her identity not to be revealed, lambasted the municipality and its guards for disrupting their businesses. “This is how we make a living because we are unemployed. “Sometimes when running away from the securities our goods are kicked over and spilt onto the street pavement, then vagrants pick these up and we lose out,” the street vendor said. She said the security guards arrive bearing sjamboks, adding that she suspects the security guards confiscate the goods for personal use. “How do they expect us to take our children to school with the hour we have to make money to raise our families?” she asked. “We get chased down the streets like criminals and it is humiliating. Somedays we are forced to abandon our workstations and we go back home empty handed.”This street vendor said she has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to obtain a permit. “I have been here for 12 years and I still don’t have a permit. “There are empty stands lining church street and we want to rent and pay accordingly but the process moves at a snail’s pace. We apply for permits but never get a response.”Thobeka Mafumbatha, municipal spokesperson said the security guards confiscated goods from all illegal hawkers, however, she implored the sellers to report security guards who solicited bribes. “The security guards should issue tickets with an amount to pay when they are collecting their goods. They are not allowed to take money on the spot and if such has occurred it must be reported to the municipality,”Mafumbatha advised vendors who wanted permits to make applications at the licencing department at the A.S Chetty Building.